Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, ON THE LOSS OF THE ROYAL GEORGE, by WILLIAM COWPER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

ON THE LOSS OF THE ROYAL GEORGE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"On the Loss of the Royal George" is a poem by William Cowper, written in 1782. 


William Cowper was a prominent English poet who lived during the late 18th century. "On the Loss of the Royal George" was written in response to a tragic event that occurred in 1782, when the Royal Navy ship Royal George sank in the Solent, killing hundreds of crew members and civilians. The poem reflects on the tragedy and its impact on Cowper and the wider community.


"On the Loss of the Royal George" is a poem that mourns the loss of the ship and its crew, and reflects on the fragility of human life in the face of nature's power. The poem describes the scene of the sinking, and the horror and confusion that ensued as people struggled to save themselves and their loved ones.

The poem also reflects on the emotional impact of the tragedy, and the sense of loss and grief that Cowper and the wider community felt in the aftermath. It emphasizes the importance of remembering the lives lost, and of honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those who tried to save them.

Form and Style:

The poem is written in six stanzas, each with a consistent rhyme scheme (ABABCC) and meter (iambic pentameter). It has a somber and mournful tone, with vivid and descriptive language that conveys the horror and tragedy of the event.

Poetic Elements:

  • Imagery: Cowper uses vivid and descriptive imagery throughout the poem to convey the horror and tragedy of the sinking, including imagery of water, darkness, and death.
  • Metaphor: Cowper uses the metaphor of a "noble vessel" to describe the Royal George, emphasizing its strength and importance as a symbol of British naval power.
  • Personification: Cowper personifies the ship, describing it as "groaning" and "trembling" before sinking beneath the waves.
  • Allusion: Cowper alludes to the biblical story of Jonah and the whale, drawing on its themes of repentance and salvation to convey the spiritual significance of the tragedy.


"On the Loss of the Royal George" is a poem that conveys the horror and tragedy of a catastrophic event, while also reflecting on its emotional and spiritual significance. Its vivid language and powerful imagery make it a moving tribute to the lives lost, and a powerful reminder of the fragility of human life. The poem's message of remembrance and honor has resonated with readers for centuries, making it a lasting testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience.

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